Japan is one of the oldest societies in the world, but it is deeply concerned about its low birth rate

the main points
  • The average life expectancy in Japan is 49, the highest in the world after the small city of Monaco.
  • Births fell to a new record low last year, according to official estimates, falling below 800,000 for the first time.
  • Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said it was “now or never” for the country to address the declining birth rate.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed to take urgent steps to tackle the country’s declining birth rate, saying it is “now or never” for one of the world’s oldest societies.
Japan has been trying in recent years to encourage its people to have more children with promises of cash rewards and better benefits, but it remains one of the most expensive places in the world to raise children, according to surveys.
Births fell to a new record high last year, according to official estimates, falling below 800,000 for the first time — a watershed moment that came eight years earlier than the government had projected.

This likely led to a further decline in the population in a country where the median age is 49, the highest in the world after only the small city of Monaco.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers his political speech during the lower house plenum of the National Diet in Tokyo on Monday. Source: aap / Masanori Jinko / AP

“Our nation is on the cusp of whether it can maintain its societal functions,” Mr. Kishida said in a political speech at the opening of this year’s parliamentary session on Monday.

“It’s now or never when it comes to policies around childbirth and parenting – it simply cannot wait any longer,” he added.

Mr. Kishida said he would present plans to double the budget for children-related policies by June, and that a new government agency for children and families to oversee the issue would be created in April.

Japan is the third most expensive country globally to raise children, according to YuWa population research, behind only China and South Korea. The countries are also experiencing population shrinkage in worrying signs for the global economy.

Other countries are also beginning to control their aging and shrinking populations. China reported last week that its population would decline in 2022 for the first time in 60 years.

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